House 3: The Horror Show

After checking out the first House flick and digging it I skipped right ahead to the third one, given the subheading ‘The Horror Show.’ I did this because it was more readily available to me than than the second and because they’re anthology anyways but mainly because it stars Lance Henriksen, who I’m a huge fan of. This one has a super bad reputation for some reason and I see from some reviews (Ebert, notably) that they had no idea this was even connected to the House franchise and thought it was an attempt at a standalone horror flick. This is understandable as it has almost zero connective tissue to at least the first film, which is odd they’ve used the House name but no matter, it’s still a perfectly entertaining, impressively gruesome cop versus slasher outing. Henriksen is Detective Lucas McCarthy, a tough cop and gentle family man who has successfully tracked and apprehended ‘Meat Cleaver’ Max (the great Brion James), a profoundly vicious mass murderer whose weapon of choice is, you guessed it, a giant meat cleaver. When they try to fry the fucker in the electric chair it literally goes haywire and somehow Max’s ghost is able to escape via electric currents and continue to kill as well as make life hard for Lucas and his family as he lurks about their home turning inanimate objects very animate. What to do? Lucas must think outside the box of his usual cop skill set towards more metaphysical methods before Max literally kills everyone. Henriksen is terrific and gives the role a genuinely haunted aura and PTSD afflicted frenzy that is very effective and believable. James is a mad dog monster as Max, imbuing him with a devilish trademark laugh and chewing scenery like there’s no tomorrow. There’s some very unnerving prosthetic effects, a standout moment sees a turkey dinner some nauseatingly to life in front of Lucas, provoking a hilariously deadpan reaction from the man. While I don’t see quite what this has to do with the House franchise in essence and could have easily just been it’s own unrelated thing, I really enjoyed it for it’s energy, the brutal cat and mouse game between Henriksen and James who are both at the top of their acting game here and the inspired, deranged special effects. Good times.

-Nate Hill

Steve Miner’s House

There’s a lot going on here for a film with the simple and straightforward title ‘House,’ and not all of adds up for a coherent or clear minded horror flick but it’s still a lot of warped, gooey fun with some great 80’s practical effects, a decidedly anthology vibe despite, well, not being anthology at all really and the same kind of mischievous, rambunctious, irreverent tone to the horror that one might find in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. It’s also directed by Steve Miner who has deep horror roots, having helmed the very first Friday The 13th long ago so the force is solidly strong with this one, in terms of horror speak. William Katt plays a writer who moves into a creaky old house with his family and before they even have a chance to unpack their shit his kid goes missing, like literally before you even get properly introduced to the characters, it’s wild and hilarious. As the ominous yet silly tone is set we also meet all kinds of other ghosts and ghoulies including some spectacularly gruesome monsters that live in the closet, a fat bottomed zombie girl who keeps showing up to torment him (this is where the film feels most like Evil Dead), some pesky sentient gardening tools that follow him around, George Wendt as his sorta friendly sorta nosy neighbour who keeps bringing him beer in offers that he rudely snubs and the mummified remains of an old Nam war buddy (Richard Moll) who come back to haunt and remind him of some psychological incident regarding the war that can’t be put to rest. There is a LOT going on and unfortunately the film can’t make proper sense of it or make it all feel like it’s coherently connected beyond a kind of scattered episodic feel, hence my references to anthology films above. However, what it lacks in clear vision it makes up for in cheer lunatic energy and boisterous charm, each oozy new set piece and special effect clearly showing a level of artistry, creation and off the wall deadpan humour that is impressive and fun, the acting from everyone, Wendt in particular, is very good and it all feels like everyone was having a good time.

-Nate Hill